Glynn County’s revenue study committee will discuss the possibility of imposing a beach parking fee on St. Simons Island to pay for more lifeguard coverage when it meets Wednesday.
According to Audrey Gibbons, committee chairwoman, Glynn County Commissioner David O’Quinn requested the committee take up the discussion.
He’s interested in targeting the fee specifically at the 300-plus parking spots that serve East Beach on St. Simons Island.
Rather than being explicitly in favor of or against a parking fee, O’Quinn said the commission should consider all options when faced with a problem.
The problem, in this case, is a higher demand for lifeguards every year but dropping revenue due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic damage it wrought.
“I feel like we need to have more protection on the beach for visitors that come to the area,” O’Quinn said.
More and more visitors go to the beach every year, O’Quinn said. The COVID-19 pandemic has not put much of a dampener on beach crowds. The way he envisions it, any revenue from a beach parking fee would go to lifeguards and beach safety first and foremost.
“No one really knows what kind of revenue we can get, and to have a discussion I think we need to have an objective evaluation of the facts,” O’Quinn said.
Permanent improvements to the parking areas would also be on the table, he said.
Depending on how far the idea goes, O’Quinn said he would want public input at multiple points in the process.
There are a lot of variables to consider; for example, would the money be collected at a gate or kiosk, and before or after parking, and should residents get priority or reduced-rate passes? He said county residents should be a part of the decision.
Past commissions have discussed imposing a similar fee but dropped the matter in the face of citizen opposition.
The revenue study committee’s meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. and will be broadcast to the county’s YouTube and Facebook pages.
Ambulance and various park fees have occupied most of the committee’s time until this point, Gibbons said.
The five-member citizen committee was created in 2019 to examine the county government’s income sources and make recommendations to the county commission on increases or decreases in existing fees and new sources of revenue.
“That’s the only thing we don’t have a good answer on yet,” Gibbons said of the beach fees. “We’re looking at other areas in the community and other beaches in the area. We’ll look at their plans and look at our area and see what would be beneficial and cost-effective.”
A report on their findings would have been ready for the commission’s July 16 meeting but for O’Quinn’s request, she added. Now she’s hoping to have their recommendations complete and ready to present to the commission next month.
“I think we’ve been very efficient in getting information, and we’ve been working diligently,” Gibbons said.